Select Committee on the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing

Brad Cathers, MLA for Lake Laberge

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 5, 2013

by Brad Cathers

The world is becoming increasingly interested in Yukon.

Economic opportunities have attracted, and will continue to attract, a lot of interest in the territory, including in its tourism, mining, and oil and gas sectors.

Over the past few decades, Yukon has had a regulated conventional oil and gas industry, including operational wells in southeast Yukon. Over the past several months there has been increasing public discussion around the possibility of unconventional oil and gas extraction methods in the territory, specifically hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.

In an effort to ensure that we as Yukoners have a clear understanding of the potential risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing, the government committed to facilitating a public dialogue on this issue in the Fall 2012 sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

In honour of its commitment and in preparation of that public dialogue, Government of Yukon staff has invested a significant amount of time over the past few months reviewing what steps have been taken in other jurisdictions.

Moving forward, the Government intends to establish a select committee to facilitate the public dialogue. The committee will consider whether hydraulic fracturing can be done safely if properly regulated, and if so, make recommendations related to any steps Yukon should take to responsibly regulate this practice.

The select committee’s mandate will enable it to undertake activities with the goal of gaining a science-based understanding of the technical, environmental, societal, and regulatory aspects of hydraulic fracturing. Committee activities will include facilitating education, information sharing, and conducting stakeholder and public consultations.

The government is proposing that the select committee be composed of equal representation from government and Opposition, and also proposes that MLAs for Watson Lake and Vuntut Gwitch’in, where oil and gas activities are already taking place and are most likely to occur, participate on the committee.

The government looks forward to receiving input from all interested parties on this very important issue – citizens, industry, environmental NGOs, Opposition members, and regulators from other jurisdictions who have dealt, or are dealing, with this issue themselves.

Once input from the public dialogue is assessed, and recommendations from the select committee are received, the government will proceed in a way that is educated, informed, balanced, and responsible.

As government, we are committed to protecting the environment and public health, while allowing for responsible economic development to occur.